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The Russian Orthodox Church hit back at the Vatican this week after Pope Francis told an Italian newspaper that Patriarch Cyril should not “turn into Putin’s altar boy” amid the invasion of Ukraine.
“Pope Francis chose the wrong tone,” the Russian Orthodox Church said in a statement on Wednesday. “It is unlikely that such statements will contribute to the establishment of a constructive dialogue between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches, which is particularly necessary at the present time.”
The pope recalled in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that half of a 40-minute conversation he had with Patriarch Kirill in March consisted of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church reading of “all the justifications for war”.
POPE FRANCIS SUGGESTS ‘NATO BARKS AT RUSSIA’S DOOR’ MAY HAVE FORCED PUTIN TO INVADE UKRAINE
Kirill, a longtime Putin supporter, echoed the Russian president’s justifications for the war in sermons and blamed NATO.
“Patriarch Kirill recalled that at the end of the Soviet era, Russia was assured that NATO would not move an inch to the east. However, this promise was broken, even the former Soviet Baltic republics have joined NATO,” the Russian Orthodox Church said on Wednesday. “Russia could not and cannot allow this to happen.”
Despite their disagreements, Pope Francis also partially blamed NATO, telling the Italian newspaper this week that “NATO’s barking at Russia’s doorstep” may have forced Putin to invade.
“An anger that I don’t know if you can say was provoked, but perhaps facilitated,” the pope said.
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Pope Francis met Kirill in person in Cuba six years ago, marking the first time a pontiff has met the head of the Russian Orthodox Church since the Great Schism nearly a millennium ago.
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